Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A day in my life: Inertial Groceries

I operate entirely on momentum. I never want to get out of bed in the morning until I'm out of it. I never want to leave the house until I've left it. I never want to go to the grocery store until I’m already there. It’s a chicken and egg dilemma, especially when I’m out of chicken and eggs. And absolutely everything else.

I put off going to the store as long as possible.

Having grudgingly made my way there, I love it. The colors! The smells! The choices! The endless creative possibilities inherent in the choices!
Look! Bell peppers are on sale! Just imagine all the delicious things I can make with bell peppers!
(See also: Look! Mac-n-cheese is on sale! Just imagine the tastiness of this completely fake food when I don't want to cook!)
Everything is delightful. I debate over brands and flavors:
Do I want chicken tenders or chicken strips?
Fresh broccoli or frozen?
Chupacabra on a stick or diced for stew?

I taste all the free samples. I wave at the live lobsters. I visit each aisle at least once. I read labels. I fill the cart. I fill the bottom of the cart.

I do yogic meditation in the checkout line. I'm in no hurry: I'm living in the present moment. I don't mind that the checkout girl methodically takes her time - that makes her good at her job, just like I'm good at my job. The world is a beautiful place. I had fun shopping. I have groceries. I shall cook them. It shall be glorious. Om Shanti Shanti.

The bag boy smiles at each customer. "Can I help you to your car?" he asks a guy who only has two bags. "Can I help you to your car?" he asks an old lady, who politely declines. “Can I help you to your car?” because it’s a great day and it would be nice to get out in it.

That’s when I notice a trend among the people in front of me: ten items or less all around. Did I choose the Express Lane by mistake?

I check.


Meditative calm flies right out the window.

Frak! I think. Am I the only irresponsible person in the world? Does no one else wait until the last minute? Have I violated social etiquette without knowing it (again)? Am I secretly the only person who actually likes food? Is that why I’m fat? Frak!
The bag boy stares with haunted eyes as I unload my cart. "I'm so sorry," I say. How could I be so inconsiderate as to put him through this?
"I've seen worse," says the checkout girl. Was that sarcasm? I can’t tell! What must she think of me?

People in desperate need of yogic meditation line up behind me, tapping their feet impatiently, waiting to purchase only one or two things. I check again: this is still not the Express Lane. I am fine. I am not a horrible person.

Would it kill them to open another lane? Gah - focus! Present moment. Om Om Om.

I want to shout “Quit Judging Me!!!” as the checkout girl announces my total and passes me a receipt as long as I am tall.

The bag boy doesn’t make eye contact as he offers me the cart of bagged groceries, nor does he offer to help me to my car. I have broken him. He has faced malevolence and found himself lacking, like a fallen hero to be pitied rather than scorned.

But my heart is strangely devoid of pity as I cross the parking lot where it has started to rain.

Safe at home, I just manage to put the groceries away before my momentum runs out. I am mentally and spiritually drained, a dried-up husk that only vaguely resembles personhood. I read on the couch for the rest of the day. And do nothing else. I might be persuaded to flee the house if it caught fire, but it would require a highly compelling argument.

To revive me, my husband makes a show of being impressed by the groceries. “What did you get today?” he asks, pulling me into his arms as he sits next to me on the couch.

“Tilapia was on sale,” I say, my soul tentatively returning to my body. “And they had this cheese, and I stocked up on broccoli. I had fun!”

“That’s good,” he says, kissing the top of my head. “Why don’t I make dinner? I could do carbonara.”

“Okay!” I settle contentedly into the cushions. The world is a beautiful place after all, and we have groceries and they are glorious.
Then he calls from the kitchen, “Did you get any eggs while you were out?”


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